Saturday, August 9, 2008

Precious Resources

*Note from Camey: Please watch the name of the author at the bottom of each post before commenting.

Last night, we had just sat down to dinner, when there was a knock at the front door. It was a guy from our local water company who was driving through the neighborhood looking for green heard grass. And anywhere he saw green grass, he pulled up, stopped, and went up to the front door of that home and knocked. Which was why he was now knocking on our door...because we have green grass.

The man from our water company proceeded to explain to me that the reason he had stopped and interrupted my highly nutritious Pizza Hut dinner, was because he saw our green grass. Not trying to be a Mr. Smarty Pants, I said to the man, "thank you, I'm glad you like it." Unfortunately, the man was not there to bestow an award for the greenest lawn in our neighborhood. To the contrary, he launched into this somewhat probing interrogation relative to my watering habits...which I must confess caught me just a little off guard.

"How many days a week do you water? What days of the week do you water? Do you water on even numbered days or do you water on odd numbered days? Do you water between the hours of 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM on any day of the week regardless of whether it's an odd or even numbered day?

Now the Paul Harvey as to why this young man was now standing on my front door step has to do with more than the fact that I have some green grass in my front lawn. Several weeks ago the water company had sent out a letter telling all the residents of the neighborhood that the water well that provided water to our quaint little village was running dangerously low because of the hot temperatures and high demand for water. The letter had specifically instructed all residents not to water between the hours of 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM. Furthermore (now I'm sounding like a lawyer, right?), according to the instructions contained in this letter, if your address ended in an even number, like mine, you could only water on even numbered days of the week...but only before 8:00 AM or after 8:00 PM. The letter contained a similar admonishment for those water mongering odd numbered residents.

Well it seems that the water level in the water well has not recovered, and in fact, has now reached a critical stage. If drastic conservation measures are not initiated immediately the neighborhood could temporarily be without water in a matter of days and until such time as the water company can drill an additional well. Which brings us back to my dinner time visit from the water company representative. The water company has apparently decided that if you have any green grass in your yard, you must somehow be in violation of the aforementioned water edict. So the pointed questioning as to the true nature of my aquatic habits continued unabated.

I must admit that at this point I was beginning to feel like I was back in the fifth grade at North Euless Elementary School being lectured by Ms. Morrison, my fifth grade teacher after someone ratted me out for stuffing papertowels in the drain of one of the sinks in the boy's bathroom and turning on the water. She kept me after school that day for what seemed like at least six hours...which I think it was only an hour, but to a ten year old wanting to get home and play, it was an eternity. Ms. Morrison went into great detail with me about why we should respect God's creation and the precious resources He gave to us to sustain life on this little blue planet. She read to me the Genesis account of creation from the big ol' family Bible she had on her bookshelf, and she told me horrifying stories of kids my same age in other parts of the world who were dying because they lacked enough clean water to drink. Then, she made me write on the blackboard 100 times that "I will respect God's creation and not waste water ever again." That's a long sentence for a 10 year old...especially when you're having to write it 100 times!

But you know what? I can promise you that after the lecture I received from Ms. Morrison that day some 36 years ago, I have never, ever, ever, knowingly wasted water. What's more, I have always been keenly aware of God's incredible creation and of the awesome responibility we all been charged with by God to care for it. Whether it's the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, or other resources he has blessed us with, we are God's stewards and caretakers of His creation. How sad that we so often take for granted the gifts we have have been given...many times until it's too late. One day, we are going to run out of something that God has given us, like water...and we won't be able to just drill another they are planning to do in our neighborhood.

Oh yes, the nice young man at my door - where did I leave off? Oh yeah, I explained to the fellow that the reason I had greener grass than both my even and odd neighbors, was because I happened to have an anaerobic septic system. The kind that cleans the water to the point where its cleaner than our lake water, and then waters the yard with it. Our's is the newest house in our neighborhood, and by the time we built it seven years ago, all the building codes had changed and traditional septic systems were no longer allowed. No one else had a septic system like ours. Obviously this nice young man wasn't aware of that fact. After several minutes of explaining the finer nuiances of our septic system to the guy...while my highly nutritious yet somewhat cold pizza dinner awaited...he went away - I think still somewhat skeptical.

However, I appreciated the reminder of just how precious the things God has given us are. And that includes a lot more than just water!

Hearing and Responding. Public School.

Thank you to those whom have commented on Austin's post below whether through here, via email or in-person. He has been beyond busy at the little store since he posted it. He will respond himself when time permits. In the meantime...

I ask that you continue to pray for Austin. He has a big decision to make that only he can. The ball, as they say, is in his court.

Austin has been home schooled/academy since the middle of seventh grade. His decision involves responding to how God is speaking to him these days. There's no doubt he is hearing from God because it would truly mean dying to self even more so than he already does. Austin so enjoys the way he has been doing school the last few years. For him - the most important person ever to walk the face of the earth was Jesus. Curriculum based off that is right up his alley. The academy also meets in our physical church building.

That's where the rub is..... He went to Philly.... the inner-city streets to follow God's call. What about the public high school here in G-town? It's ranked one of the worst in the nation? One reason being drugs. I know it's ugly... but it is the truth.

Brother G and I have never lived or believed that our children's education is totally up to the public school system and the government. If we had - Austin would not be a junior this year. He would be a sophomore. Austin took a test a couple of months ago at a college not far away from here..... he more than qualifies to take dual credit courses for a couple of subjects. (dual credit means they count for high school and college)

There's a lot of talk in certain circles about Christ-followers needing to home school their children these days. That, we believe, is for each individual family to decide after much prayer and seeking God's face... not His hand and not a way to separate ourselves from the world. Strong? Perhaps. We also believe in doing what is best for each child.. not what is easiest necessarily.

If you've spent any amount of time reading this blog - you'll know we see Austin as our brother-in-Christ first.... then our son. That's why I said...

He has a big decision to make that only he can. The ball truly is in his court. We'll support him either way. And for the record... he currently helps pay for his schooling... So, he really does have more than a vested interest in it.

As a note here: I never had any intentions for any of our children to attend public schools. Austin being enrolled in kindergarten at the public school was a response to being obedient to what Brother G heard clearly six weeks before school started. We had Parker - our third child that spring. Parker's story has been shared here before (okay: here's some about him written this year Dream. Prayers. Nineveh. Note.) Austin's first grade year was when I became ill. God clearly was protecting our family. Yes, even in public school.

Hearing and responding.....

Are you hearing God these days?

And what is it going to require of you?

Are you willing to look crazy?

(and you thought this was just about praying for Austin...)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Philadelphia '08!

Hey everyone! This is Austin, Camey and Brother G's eldest son, coming to give you a hint of the Mission: Philadelphia trip!

So every now and then something comes along that just seems to make you say 'Wow'. That 'Wow' was Philadelphia. To quote my good mentor Lincoln, 'there's something about [Philadelphia] that brings me to my knees.' Amen, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!

I must get the first two days out of the way. Let me rack my brain to see if there is an appropriate adjective that describes the first two days of the trip... other than the fragment 'Never Again'... I can't think of anything else to say about it. 48 hours, 4 of them asleep. Everyone. By air, land, train, and sea...all in one day. I never want to go back to NYC again...aaahhh!!! 3 minutes to catch trains....lost subway rides....3 hours in a train station...yeah...I could go on.

Before we finally got to our hotel, which was actually in New Jersey, we had experienced an incredible worship service at Open Door Baptist Church. That was my first time in an African-American church, and I gotta say, how they worship makes us white boys look bored. Dancing, Clapping,, it was contagious! We all caught 'Praise the Lord!' syndrome, and Pastor Mark, who was only gonna preach 20 minutes he said at first, turned into an hour of pure Word-reading. Amen, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!

3 Churches, 2 Vacation Bible Schools, 1 Mission: To bring the love of Jesus to a community thirsting for one. The street I was on happened to be Cocaine Alley, where the most cocaine is dealt in the United States. I saw quite a few drug deals go down...thankfully we weren't approached by any dealers. My street was one of the most dangerous of all Philadelphia, but I never felt intimidated. We received quite a few death threats (one of them I will tell later in this post), but God defiantly put a hedge of protection around us this week. Our Vacation Bible School was interesting. The first day, only 2 kids showed up. We know why though : when we were starting, kids were getting out of bed. So we pushed it back an hour later, and guess what? The next day, we saw like 14-15 kids, and they kept coming every day later in the week. We saw 2 of the kids accept Christ, a major blessing. This all happened in the morning.

The afternoon dawned pretty fast every day that week. We each had our own project to help. Several rebuilt a basement, picked up trash in a neighborhood, painted rooms...I had me and 3 other guys working on computers. I was going to wait until the end to talk about what God taught me, but in order to continue with this story, I must say now: God will reward you for saying 'Yes' to wherever He puts you. I now have a very keen concept of the term 'Flexibility' now. Our "plan" wasn't what God had in mind for us. I was so excited about working on rebuilding the basement, but God had a different plan for me. I got the chance to try to get some computers set up. The pastor of the church gives me 4 computers to work with, and he wants Office 2007 Professional installed on each of them. At first I was okay with that, but It wasn't until I plugged one in and turned it on did I realize the true scope of the situation. These computers were 20 years old. Each of them were different in specifications. Each had a different hard drive. One of them had Windows XP installed already - on a 2 gig hard drive. Yes, I said 2 gig. And it was an internal hard drive. We didn't get to use much CD-ROM; we got to see countless Floppy disks - including all 28 floppies for Windows 95'. I can't tell you how horribly messed up these poor computers were. One other thing that I learned is this: Whenever you can do a project, when it comes to computers, never, ever say 'I can do it, no problem' without looking under the hood. We worked with MS-DOS pretty much the whole week, and thank God Ryan S. knew his server commands, because none of us had a clue what to do. By the end of the week, we had officially deemed one of the computers 'Dead', and even though we couldn't get a single computer working enough, we got the one with Windows XP cleaned up...and it had easily the worse disk defragmentation report I've ever seen. I can't describe the frustration and annoyance the 4 of us had working with these old pieces of technological archeology (Seriously, we saw a HP Vectra!), but at the same time, the rewards I got for getting several days of hands-on training with old computers was definitely invaluable. So when you say "Yes" to God, He will reward you. I firmly believe that now, as it has happened to me. On a side note: One of the funniest things we saw was when we were driving down the road one day, in front of us was a van that said : Cyberhood: Bringing the Cyber to the Hood. Priceless.

Now for the story of a death threat. We were passing out fliers for Vacation Bible School, and this guy walks up to me and asks for a flier. I hand him one, and he starts asking about why we're here, what we're doing, when my friend Caidon comes and joins the conversation. We couldn't tell what his mood was at first, but we thought he was interested. This guy then starts yelling and cussing at Caidon, who is 5 feet away from me, and I seriously thought something bad was going to happen. I thought he was going to hurt her, when he just shoves the flier back at her. He starts walking away, and in the corner of my eye, I saw these 3 big guys coming our way, thinking 'Not good...This could get bad'. Before I could say a prayer , these 3 guys start shouting at this guy "Hey fool, leave the girl alone. What she do to you?" Then they start shouting back in forth, between us, and we thought a fight was going to break out. Then the amazing John comes and peacefully breaks the fight up. Me and Caidon were shaken, but we then thought, 'We must be doing something right for Satan to attack us like this". That experience also taught me to rely on God in times of trouble and not human strength. My backpack weighed probably 25 lbs, and was the pretty big. When I saw the guy getting aggressive to Caidon, I un-slung one of the straps, with the full intention of using it to protect, a sign of my pride saying 'I can handle this', when my response should have been, 'God, protect her'. I have yet to learn the difference from being brave to protect someone and being an idiot. I was the latter.

I must tell you about a lady named Mrs. Yates. She worked at the church we did Vacation Bible School at. She has the incredible ability to call people out of their sins when they walk down the street. It was incredible. She got that way by studying the word. When she was telling us this, after we had saw in action, God slapped me and said "You pour your time into these other books, but not into my Word". For the trip I brought my Bible, a 400 page book I was about halfway finished with, another 400 page book I hadn't even started yet, and on top of all that, the massive Lord of the Rings. A little overkill, huh? As a result, I am going though the devotional A Call to Die for the second time this year, fasting from all books except the Bible and books for school. I've found that if you say something on a spiritual high, when you get to the trenches, if you don't do it right away, chances are you wont do it. So I did it right away. For me, what will make this trip a success or not is found months afterwards, how we are doing applying the things God taught us in our spiritual high. We can remember the trip for the great memories, but I'd rather remember the trip knowing it was the trip that led me on the start of a greater relationship with God in my everyday life. That is my hope and prayer for my fellow students who went on this trip, that we don't grow out of the way we lived that week, we grow into it.
Several of us told in front of others what God was teaching us, so now is the test. This was round one.

I could talk all day long about the trip, but I would probably kill the bandwidth of blogger. In all this, God really worked in our lives, and in the lives of others this week, both in our church and in the community. I would go back there in a heartbeat. I hope we go back next year, because the construction project couldn't finish the whole basement, and I would come up with a credit card and get whatever we need for those computers. By the way, I want to organize a fundraiser for the church I worked for, money where we could purchase computers and supplies they would need to have a computer lab. If any of you are interested in donating, please contact us. I want to leave you with an exert from my journal.

"I hope that [the trip] is the chapter that begins a story that doesn't end, one that continues for our lives...Like from camp, we are on a mountaintop, and on the mountain things do not grow. They grow at the bottom, in the trenches of life...We took the fight to Satan - but in the fog of war we can't see the damage done to his dominion. We may not in this life. I am about to get off the plane and head from Atlanta for DFW - and for home. You're the God of that city, you're the King of those people..."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The River. Undeniable Encounters.

The River:

Saturday evening, Austin, Travis, Parker and I headed down to the river. This was the first time that Austin had been back from Philly since we started going to the river again. Actually, it dawned me on while we were there.... I never had gone down to this particular river with the boys until a week plus ago - my dad had always been the one. Most of the time it was because the boys were staying with my parents because I was in the hospital. As I sat there watching the boys throw rocks - I thanked God for the pain of illnesses. For even though I would have preferred for none of us to have gone down that path - I wouldn't trade that time they spent with their grandpa. And even after being healed... and all that took place with daddy before his passing... again... wouldn't trade one single moment.

The boys skipped rocks and we were laughing ourselves silly. All the sudden we heard airplanes above us. In the midst of the gentle sway of the water - we had forgotten how close we were to the private airfield in the highly secure gated community. Up above us were two small private planes. One I'm sure was coming in for a landing... the other - it kept circling above us as if it were keeping watch of the river and those in it. As the sun continued to set - the plane would get harder to see - and yet we could still hear it. It's presence was clearly known.

At one point - Travis got a little mad at Parker. He walked off for a bit..... Parker followed him. Then, Austin..... then me.... After a bit - he came back to where we had been in the river. This time was different. They didn't just get a little wet.... they actually swam in the river. I think it is more than safe to say - had Travis not gotten mad - they would have been content with only being in the water up to their knees. Funny how that works like that..... Their smiles were simply contagious and their laughter was even more infectious. And I thanked God yet again for three boys who the world said I would never have. Yes, that's another part of my/our story..

As we were starting to talk about how dark it was getting outside... we all stood in the river and held hands and Austin prayed out loud. For even though I am their mother - it is not always necessary for me to do so. The music could be heard as we were linked together hand and hand... age to age... 40, 16, 13, and 10. I must confess - it was hard to leave the river. I wanted to capture the moment and savour it. I did take pictures and video. They will stay as just ours for now.

Parker took my hand as we started back to the van. He kept looking at me and smiling deeply with that red hair of his looking more like an apple than a pumpkin pie like it does at times. He'd tell you it's auburn.... We sang as we headed back to where I am now. We worshipped our Real Father. And even after I had pulled in to the garage...... we sat in the van and kept worshipping. Austin and I had tears in our eyes. A moment even Kodak could not capture fully and no Visa card could carry an amount so great.

Undeniable Encounters:

Without question, there have been numerous undeniable encounters the last few months. Some if I were to share with you..... you'd call me absolutely crazy. And that would be more than okay with me. For one thing my Real Father has shown me time and time again.... all I have to do is be available to be used. Sharing His love is easier than baking cookies or giving away free water. It also can include how one answers a phone or greets that visitor walking in to the door of a place they never thought they would venture. Or the person standing in line behind them getting coffee or a Happy Meal. I pray, you, dear reader, hear that with an open heart.

Tonight was the sharing time for those who went on the trip to Philly at our physical church building. That's why I've been waiting to post testimonies here since their return....

So, first up is Austin. Warning... he can be long-winded like his dad and mother. But I pray you'll see our Real Father in his every word.

And you have been prayed for wherever you are found this very moment.